on October 7th 2013
For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime.
On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.
Now for the first time, in her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving. Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.
In the nine years after her rescue, Smart transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker. In 2012, she married Matthew Gilmour, whom she met doing mission work in Paris for her church, in a fairy tale wedding that made the cover of People magazine.
In 2017 I jumped on the Elizabeth Smart bandwagon, I watched the Lifetime Movie and the A&E documentary and of course, I read her memoir.
I listened to the audiobook of My Story narrated by the author, Elizabeth Smart. Like Waiting To Be Heard by Amanda Knox, I received a sensationalized story by a privileged millennial, and a poorly written one at that. And though I will state that what happened to both women was horrible and inexcusable this is not an excuse for the quality of their writing.
One thing I did like was Elizabeth Smart coming to the defense of her sister Mary Katherine, reprimanding those who accuse her of not seeking help or going to her parents earlier. This was one of the few redeeming qualities of the book as it actually does remind us, “who are we to judge”?
Unfortunately most of the rest of the book does not hold up as well. I need a lot of descriptions while listening to a book. Sadly, Elizabeth Smart’s idea of a description was to keep saying “it was too horrible to describe.” I don’t need the gruesome details; it is made clear that besides being kidnapped she was raped daily. However, some details are necessary to really give us a feel for her plight. These lackluster fragments did not do this and made me wonder why she bothered to write a book about the experiences she endured if she wasn’t willing to discuss them. Despite the title of the book being My Story it felt anything but.
The second thing that bothered me was the continuous usage of spiritual references. I understood that she is a very religious person and knew this might affect the tone of the book. Her constant comparisons to the parting of the Red Sea and her prayers being answered became preachy, and I wondered if some of this was seen in hindsight.
Thirdly, throughout the book, Elizabeth likes to remind us that she does not have PTSD or Stockholm Syndrome. However, reading the book leads me to believe differently. As an example, her unwillingness to admit that when she was “forced to submit to an unthinkable sex act” as oral sex only reinforced this train of thought and gave the impression that she has yet to come to terms with what happened.
In many ways, the poor writing of this book makes it do the opposite of what it is trying to do. Instead of being inspirational it is preachy and sanctimonious. Instead of portraying Elizabeth as a brave young woman facing a horrible monster it portrays a painfully naive woman who was a dangerously naive girl. And instead of convincing us that she has returned as a functional adult it makes us question how well she has truly coped. While I would not expect Elizabeth Smart to be the greatest writer ever, the fact that the coauthor did nothing to help correct these obvious mistakes is unforgivable.
On a side note, while I was writing this review, I asked my boyfriend to read it over as I was fearful of going into rant territory. It saddens me to say that he was a better coauthor for this review than Chris Stewart was to Elizabeth Smart’s memoir.
As My Story progressed, I eagerly anticipated March 2003 as that was when Elizabeth Smart was rescued, and I could finally move on.